Japanese embracing the hula

Mamika Sawada
Mamika Sawada
Yoko Kukuba
Yoko Kukuba

By Howard Dashefsky -


NAGOYA, Japan (KHNL) - In a bustling country, not quite the size of California, 130 million people stay focused, and work hard to make Japan one of the most productive countries in the world.

A world that seems to be getting a little bit smaller.

If you didn't know any better, you might think you were somewhere in Hawaii if you walked into the Lei Hula Studio. But this is Japan.

And the number of people doing the hula here is staggering.

By some estimates there are now as many as 1 million students, dancing at hundreds of hula schools and clubs throughout the country.

And at the Lei Hula School, like most hula schools in Japan, the emphasis is on more than just dance.

Every session includes lessons in Hawaiian language and culture.

"Its very important we teach the culture of history of Hawaii" said hula instructor Mamika Sawada.

Sawada has been teaching hula for more than 10 years in Japan.

A craft she continues to learn herself from her own Kumu on Oahu. Many of her students have also traveled to Hawaii to learn, and to perform.

"They all want to travel to Hawaii to dance, and to experience the islands".

For Sawada's students, time in the studio provides a break from an often hectic lifestyle. It also offers a connection to a place, and a culture they love.

"Hawaii is such a beautiful place and this is a way to feel like you are in the islands" said Yoko Kukuba.

The dance also offers these students something my parents all over the world yearn for. a chance to share more quality time with their children.

"It's great to spend some time with my daughter" said Kukuba.

"And we also get to learn more about Hawaii."